Now it’s official.
Michael Bloomberg has the endorsement of Jay Savino, the Republican county leader in the Bronx. The news was broken this morning by David Seifman, who cited unnamed sources. This afternoon, Savino issued a press release confirming the report.
To run in the Republican primary, and appear on the Republican ballot line in the general election (assuming he wins), Bloomberg needs the support of three out of five county chairs; Savino is the third.
In a brief telephone interview this afternoon, Savino said he has spoken with Bloomberg’s campaign, but that he and the mayor have not met privately.
The last meeting between the two men, according to Savino, was when the mayor met the all five Republican county leaders in Manhattan on February 25. Bloomberg hasn't met with the county committee either, Savino said.
Today, Savino said his support can be attributed to the good work he thinks Bloomberg's done on quality-of-life issues, the economy, and education.
“The campaign did an excellent job of pointing out the areas where we agree,” he said.
“The mayor has abandoned his congestion pricing thing,” Savino noted, by way of specifics. Also, “crime is coming down. The mayor has realized raising taxes is a last resort. He’s helping small businesses, dealing with park issues."
"Who better to lead this city during this tough, fiscally changing times than Mike Bloomberg?” Savino asked.
"I will support John whenever he choses to run, but I don’t believe it’s any secret that he’s not running," said Savino. "Ognibene is a true leader and hopefully he won’t stay retired for long."
Savino said he didn’t think his abrupt shift on whether to support Bloomberg would diminish his integrity, nor that of the party.
“I don’t think we lost face. In fact, I think we gained respect,” said Savino. “We didn’t just role over. Those concerns we had were addressed. I think those disagreements were pretty healthy and this process is something that should continue year in and year out.”
Savino, who now joins the leaders of Brooklyn and Staten Island, had previously been an outspoken critic of Bloomberg. During a television interview last month, ABC’s Diana Williams asked Savino and Phil Ragusa, the county chairman in Queens, if they thought Bloomerg was trying to “rent” the Republican line.
Ragusa said, “Oh, absolutely, yes.”
Savino said, “It certainly appears that way.”
This afternoon, I asked Savino the same question: do you think Bloomberg is trying to rent the Republican Party?
“I don’t think so," he said. "I had never said that. That was another chairman who said that. It was nothing to do with financial support.”
I also asked Savino the day he called both Liz and I to report on as parade in the Bronx. He said, “The mayor never said hello or even looked our way. And this man wants my support?"
This afternoon, he laughed it off.
“I don’t think that anything is personal,” he said. “Our endorsement of Bloomberg is what is in the best interest of the people I represent.” He also said he “can’t allow a personal issue, what was perceived to be a snub” to affect his decision making, and the incident “could have been a mistake.”
“Each and every time we saw each other, we walked over and said hello. That’s healthy.”